January 6th, 2010- After a 16 days of enduring what was no doubt greatest emotional challenge of my life, we finally got some answers. I was at the hospital from 11:00 am-6:30 p.m. learning in detail about my illness, prognosis and plan of action.
Starting at 1:30 I was seen by Dr. Leo Gordon's team of fellows, nurses and his esteemed Social Worker. She happens to be my age and a Hodgkins survivor. I was initially referred to her through Jonny Immerman. By coincidence she was assigned to my case before Jonny even connected the two of us. I first met with her and liked her right away. She spoke in calming and soothing tones, and I felt immediately comfortable letting out a good deep cry. Once I got that out of my system I was quickly shuffled into an exam room with Dr. Gordon's fellow. The fellow took an extensive medical history, did a physical exam where he felt my lymph nodes, and then finished by telling me how tremendous of a doctor Leo Gordon is.
I finally felt safe for the first time in 2.5 weeks. Without meeting Dr. Gordon I already felt that I was being examined and treated with the kind of care I needed.
Dr. Gordon came in and I immediately felt a strong repore with him. He looked a bit younger than my father, had a warm and calm manner, and he was incredibly thorough.
Without going into every detail- here is the cliffs notes version.
I have been diagnosed with Stage 2, atypical, unfavorable Hodgkin's. This means that my tumors exist above the diaphragm predominately in my neck and chest. The largest tumor is 8 cm and there are a few of them which is why I am not considered to have Stage One. My cancer is called unfavorable because I have symptoms. This does not necessarily impact my prognosis it just means my presentation is different. And finally my Cancer is atypical because they found a protein in my biopsy that they find in non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I have the CD-20 protein which will need to be attacked by a seperate drug called Rituxin.
I am starting Chemotherapy on January 26th for at least 6 months. I will be in the hospital for treatment every first day and 15th day for 3-4 hours. The first time I receive Chemo I will need to be in the hospital for 7-8 hours. My course of treatment will be determined by my 2nd PET Scan which will occur 2 months after my first treatment. They want to make sure the Cancer is dramatically being reduced. If it is resistant they will have to figure out another game plan.
Admittedly when I left Dr. Gordon's office I was a bit bummed that I didn't have straight up Hodgkins. However in speaking to more health care professionals I have learned that in reality my diagnosis is somewhat more complete than others. 10 years ago they didn't know about the CD-20 protein and would have merely treated me with the regular Hodgkins regimen. Now that they know more i wll be treated not necessarily more aggressively but more thoroughly.
During the conversation with Dr. Gordon he looked me deep in the eyes and said, "Jenna I will realistically cure you of this- you have a 95% shot."
I realize that I am in for a very difficult road ahead-one that is going to test my physical and mental strength on a daily basis. While I am nervous to venture into the unknown, I feel ready for the challenge. I am counting down the days before I begin the fight of my life.